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Why I Set a Timer for My Kid’s Playtime

Thirty minutes. That’s what I set the timer for. I get out the toys. I sit on the floor. I get ready for fun.  There are 48 of these half-hour sessions in any given day.  How do you spend yours?


A couple weeks ago a friend was telling me about an interesting experiment she was doing.  She was setting the timer when playing with her kids.  30 minutes – that’s it.  Throughout the last couple months, she was realizing how little time she was actually spending with her kids.  The timer wasn’t for them… it was for her.

My Kids Need More Time with…. ME

Her story made me realize the exact same thing was going on in my house.  Yes, my kids get my attention and I spend time with them but very little is dedicated to actual play.  Of course I feed them, pick up after them, dress them and talk with them but how much do I give of my undivided attention?  I shamefully realized it was very little.

Time to Experiment

I decided to take a note from my friend and set the timer for us, too.  30 minutes of play time in the morning.  No checking the phone.  No cleaning.  No picture taking.  No distractions.  Man, it is harder than you think.  In this busy, crazy world, moms are constantly pulling themselves in every direction.  Take a cute picture, post it on Facebook.  But wait first you need to make it look pretty in a photo app.  The time with your children can easily be eaten up with “to-do ‘s” and before you know it the day is gone and they have been given very little of your actual attention.

Playtime is Essential

What I learned with this experiment is that playtime with my children is not just a “want to” for me; it’s a “have to.” I learn so much when I set aside dedicated time to play with them.  I discover more about their individual personalities.  I can teach them new skills.  I can laugh and giggle and pretend with them.  And if my kids can’t have just 30 minutes of my time every day, what kind of parent am I?

The Days are Long but the Years are Short

One of my favorite authors Gretchen Rubin once wrote “The days are long but the years are short” when discussing her time with her children.  I try to remind myself of this every day.  Yes, sometimes there is so much to do that we can’t fathom finding any spare moments in the day.  But than what are we missing out on?  If we don’t spend time with our children now when will we?  There is never a perfect time or place or day to engage with them.  To sit on the floor and have a tea party or enjoy a picnic lunch together.  We must make the time…. now.

What I’ve Learned with Setting the “Mommy Timer”

It seems silly to think that I set a timer on my playtime with my kids.  And I am almost embarrassed to admit this to other moms.  But then I remember that a lot of other parents are probably in the same boat.  They want to spend more quality moments with their children but aren’t quite sure how to go about it.  While it may seem crazy that a timer would make that much of a difference, it actually does.  Most importantly it has helped me realize how easily my attention gets taken away from what’s most important…. my family.  How quickly social media and dirty dishes and “capturing the moment” can make me miss my daughter’s silly jumps, my son’s wiggly tooth and the baby’s army crawl.

So I will continue to set the timer so I make time for those I love most.

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